PNR Expands Routes with New Trains from Indonesia

The glory days of the Philippine National Railways are slowly making a comeback.

History has not been kind to one of Asia’s first railway transports, the Philippine National Railway or PNR. It was established as the Ferrocaril de Manila-Dagupan in 1892, a tumultuous time in Philippine history when the Spanish colonial government was struggling to keep the archipelago in check. When the Revolution erupted in 1896, Katipuneros sabotaged the rails and interrupted trains at various points. A few years later during the Philippine-American War, it was again damaged by Americans and Filipinos fighting each other.

Although there had been many rehabilitation efforts that followed during the American occupation and subsequent administrations of the independent Philippine government after World War II, the railway fell to further deterioration in the ‘70s through the ‘90s because of people taking the steel off its tracks, the Pinatubo eruption, and typhoon damage.

The PNR underwent a massive rehabilitation in 2010, and this continues today. On December 11, the PNR unveiled two new diesel multiple unit (DMU) trains procured from Indonesian firm PT INKA for P485.31 million. The trains will allow the PNR to service more routes. “When we assumed, the administration of Pres. Duterte… there were only 17 routes. As we speak today, there are already 36 operating routes, and that is performance indeed,” said transportation secretary Arthur Tugade.

The two trains from Indonesia will run from Malate to FTI and vice versa, and can accommodate 250 passengers. An additional four sets of trains with four coaches each will arrive from Indonesia in January, according to Tugade.

With more trains coming and the regular rehabilitation of the old PNR routes, it is expected that the Bicol railway system will be partially operation in 2021. The PNR is slowly making a revival of its glory days as one of the cheapest and most reliable modes of transportation across Luzon.

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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor, Esquire Philippines
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